Oxk of the administrative reforms undertaken by the GovernThe Electoral meat was to make the Rolls. Electoral Rolls of the Dominion more completely and more genuinely representative of the real voting strength of the people—a strength which, if wisely exercised, would have a great influence on the interests of the State. It is asserted by Ministerial authorities with that easy and confident finality of assertion which has become a part of the equipment of politicians that the reform has been effected, and that as a result of the now cheap system of enrolment this year the electoral rolls will be eleaner and more complete than they have been for many years. The assertion must stand unchallenged as regards the electorates about which it is impossible or, at any rate, impracticable for unofficial critics-to obtain exact information; but if results elsewhere are similar to those here after the dosing of the .Supplementary Rolls for the four electorates in Dunedin, the Ministerial claim cannot be accepted as substantial and justifiable. As a result of the haphazard system of enrolment the voting strength of the Dunedin doctorates has in the aggregate decreased to a remarkable extent—by no fewer than 3,301 electors, to be precise. 'The rolls appear to have been cleaned with more than the customary thoroughness of the Reform Government. The official statistics arc, worth perusal ; —Dunedin Central.— 1014. 1911. Main roll 7,355 8.795 Supplementary 1,868 562 Totals 9,233 9.457 Decrease, 224. -VDunedin North.--Main roll 7,255 9.184 Supplementary 1,921 624 Totals 9.186 9.808 Decrease, 622. —Dunedin West.--Main roll 7.700 10.395 Supplementary 1,586 1,004 Totals 0086 11.399 Decrease, 2,113. —Dunedin South.— Main roll 8,150 9.052 Supplementary 1,350 790 Totals 9,500 9,842 Decrease, 342. / hive returns aie as near to accuracy as hj i- jtossible to roach at present; but even il they are only approximately correct it is obvious that either the enrolment system was absurdly inadequate or that death, apathy as regards electoral j rights, ami other < a uses (such as transI feience to other electorates and so on) have boon abnormally effective among the enfranchised population of Dunedin. As a. I matter of fact, not one of these causes has j been abnormal, and the real reaeon for a j lack of even a reasonable Increase in the number of enfranchised persons in 1911 is to be found in tbo perfunctory sv.tem adopted by the controlling authorities, who, in their zeal for reform, adept some queer methods to effect, it. Tl is really not surprising that the results of (lie Bit form system of enrolment are unsatisfactory and to some extent ridiculous. The Govcrnment'fi theory is that if people desire jto exert is© their electoral rights they j should make sure of enrolment. 'Hie rei spnnsihility has been cast upon electors, I which will be accepted hy opponents of ;tbe Government as another bungling in- ! stance of their fondness for distributing 1 their administrative, responsibilities. Uni questionably, there is too much apathy | among the public t>s. to exercising their j enfranchisement— a privilege that lias, not (been gained easily, and one that tu tiller ( lands has still to be fought for; but fire j adoption of nil enrolment system vihieli | offers scope for wholesale decreases; in the i voting powers of a community .is not the, | best way of stimulating interest in pop. I tics. In Dunedin West alone no fewer [than 1.995 electors, including 625 seamen, were struck off the roil lor failing to record their votes at, the General Election in 1911 ; but that dees not explain the present decrease of 2.113 electors. It ig , i*'iii- that the enrolment system through she medium of the Post Office was a Beio'in farce. There were certainly many farcical results from the system, the mest amusing example being that a certain local politician was recorded as having " gone ; no address.” Perhaps he is still missing. Had it not been for the thorough activity of an organisation whose interests ate more commercial than political, and spent something like £6OO in protecting those interests. the numerical results of the Government’s precious system of enrolment would have been remarkably inadequate. Of course. it is statutorily provided that any elector who Las not been enrolled can. by making a. prescribed declaration as to having previously voted, obtain the right to vote ; but this provision will at best be notfirng loss than humbugging on polling day. All that remains to be ,s ß id is; that if the Dunedin ■.0i1,, have been carefully picgcd and completely compiled G.e r-.’is during | the Liberals' administration must have been stuffed, with the names ot dead an.i departed men. lu future the Reform Government should avoid cheagr reforms.
It is proposed to subdivide tin 0 mamma runs, Straight or Crooked? a stretch of elevated pastoral country some 30 miles inland from Kurow, into settlement areas and rural workers' holdings. The land is leased by absentee licensees, the leaßG expires next February, and preparations for subdivision aro going forward. The Primp Minister, as Minister or' Lands, lias stated publicly that the plan of the Government is to settle the area to the best advantage as regards land settlement in a democratic country where the demand for small holding is keen and in excess of supply, and that the manner of dealing with the preparatory work of subdivision is straightforward and in accordance with departmental practice. He claims to lie honest and open in the matter, .and is content to let it stand at that, confident that results will in due time justify his Ministerial association with the proposition. There is another version, keenly advocated and supported by political opponents of the Reform party. It suggests less straightforward dealings, and leaves unbiased men to infer that the action of the Minister of Lands has, to pub the suggestion in plain terms, been directed more in tho interests of the ab'sentee licensees than for a few shepherds and others who are anxious to secure small grazing holdings. Both experienced and inexperienced political candidates in Otago have referred scathingly to .tho question, and have made general charges of " class" administration, of an important department of the State. One candidate, whose profession should have taught him the value of proof, has characterised tho Prime Minister's action in respect to the. proposed subdivision of tho Omarama runs as " tho greatest "land scandal in the history of the " country." This is a grave charge in a country where, as doubtless practised in all countries, then? have been many queer transactions in land-trafficking. Another political opponent of the lieform party soberly announced that the Government, by enabling the absentee runholders to obtain an extension ot their lease for a year, had made them a gift of any sum between £'lo,ooo and £15,000. Both eha.-ges lack the proof that lifts such political allegations above the level of campaigning stupidity. It is a dangerous form of allegation that finds expression in generalities, and is likely to do mote jiolitioal injury to the man who hurls such a charge against an ■opponent than to the individual or party ;;i whom it is ilimg. It has been stain.' with acceptable authority that lia company who attend to tho interests of the absentee licensees have not selected, under the provisions of pastoral licenses, the best run, as v,;;.alleged, and itavo not approached i! <■ Land Board at all. The company assort, indeed, thnt as a result: «>t dilatoriness (which is characteristic of most subdivisions by State departments) they will sutler inconvenience and probably some monetary loss. In addition to the company's statement, which must be accepted as accurate until those who have made Joo.sc allegations provide proof to the contrary, tiePrime Minister, speaking almost, within " cooee " of tho runs tho other day. stated dehnitolv that tho lenses will not he extended, and that the runs will be subdivided into eight small grazing runs and three. pastoral licenses of over 2,000 acres each; thai 1.400 acres will be cut up into smaller farms; that a block will be utilised tor rural workers' homes; and tlir.l the holdings will bo available, for settlement as early as possible. lie also stated that be had endorsed tho Land Hoard's recommendation that the leases should not bo extended. Representatives of agricultural companie,. who are not in any way interested in the existing "lease of the runs ii.ione us that the land, which is considered rather better than Morven IJills, is quite .suitable for subdivision into small grazing runs, each capable of carrying 'J.oOO sheep (a holding that is considered to bo sufficient for u man of practical knowledge and grit), al though two or three blocks or the. roughest hill country aro only suitable for pastoral license areas, owing to Biio\v risks and inability to "run" bleeding .--beep. In view of the fact that many people are dissatisfied with the position, and have been impressed by the general allegations as to the Government's sympathy with the '• big men," tho Prime Minister should place on record as soon as possible a full, clear statement as to the arrangements mado for subdivision, the recommendations oi the Land Board and their endorsement, and the position of thci lessees. Judged on tho loosely-presented statements by both parties to the argument, it seems to us that the action of the Prime Minister has been straight.
Permanent link to this item
Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 15659, 25 November 1914